Most Moved Mover
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Or does it?
Do we take the time to pray as we ought? Do we speak to God throughout the day? Do we pray for opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others? Do we ask God to help us in our time of need? It has been said that believing, praying people move the arm that moves the world. Most professing Christians act as if the future is open, but in the theology that some professing Christians proclaim, prayer is actually useless. Prayer changes nothing. Either God already determined the outcome in eternity past, or he already knows the outcome because he foreknew it in eternity past (even though it was non-existent and unknowable), so it is a myth that prayer can change anything. I reject both points of view. Much of tomorrow is open for us and God. Prayer is not about us begging God to show us his predetermined will (an absurd claim if one thinks about it), it is for the purpose of influencing what God’s will is going to be.
Does God mean to deceive us in the following verses? Does prayer matter? Is the future a foregone conclusion in the mind of God or is it open and able to be impacted by our prayers?
Philippians 4:6 says “…let your requests be made known unto God…”
Why would God ask us for our requests if our prayers don’t matter? Why would God tell us to pray if he already foreknew who would and who wouldn’t pray and what the result would be? If he did, it seems this would be an empty directive.
John 15:7 – “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
The Lord said the requests of his disciples were conditional upon abiding in him. This means what they asked for might or might not have been “done unto” them. Why would the Lord speak in conditional terms if the future was fixed by divine decree or in his knowledge?
Jeremiah 33:3 – “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
What if we don’t call unto him? God doing great and mighty things was dependent on the people calling unto him. God speaks as if the future includes contingencies - maybes, maybe nots - from our perspective and his.
James 5:16 – “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
If deterministic theology is accurate, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth nothing. Everything is pre-determined and it is all settled. Why tell people to pray at all? Exhaustive definite foreknowledge of all future occurrences is not causation, but it does render them certain. Yet the Bible does not speak as if all future events are a foregone conclusion in the mind of God.
2 Peter 3:11-12 – “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”
Is it possible to hasten the day of the Lord’s return through a holy and prayerful influence? According to Peter we can. We can cause that day to come more quickly. The Lord Jesus said at one point that the Father knew when that time would come, but this does not mean the day is fixed. According to the Word we can hasten that day's arrival. If God had already determined how long it would be before Christ returns, or he merely knew the day in advance, these verses would be meaningless. The time of his return can be, and perhaps has been, changed throughout history.
Of course, God will only do righteously, but the Bible shows us time and time again that our prayers can move God and influence God in his decisions. After Moses pleaded with God about his intent to destroy the Israelites, the Bible says:
“And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” (Exodus 32:14) What a marvelous truth!
(Go here to see what appears to be someone who sees this truth staring him in the face but cannot bring himself to acknowledge it because it is not the "traditional", or popular view. He sees it as a clear case of God changing his mind, but then refers to it as a “difficult portion of scripture.”)
Some do not like the way this sounds, that we can influence God, for it challenges their definition of sovereignty in which God is the Unmoved Mover, an impassible God that cannot be affected in any way by man. I agree with the late Clark Pinnock who said in response that God is the Most Moved Mover. God is a relational God that responds to the actions and prayers of his subjects, and though he is ultimately in charge, he has given much say-so to his human and angelic creatures.
Let us not underestimate what the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous person can do, for in our requests to God we are connecting to the power of the Most Moved Mover.